By Tammy Kaehler
I’ve spent some time here the last couple weeks explaining how I find NASCAR on television kind of boring. That I don’t get ovals. That I much prefer sportscar racing. There’s one big caveat to this opinion of mine, one big BUT. There’s one aspect of NASCAR that I flat out love, and that’s road courses.
See, I think stock cars on a road course are one of the funniest sights in the world. Certainly it’s the funniest sight in racing, with the possible exception of the Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales in the pit lane at Sebring (but that’s another story). Stock cars aren’t built to maximize downforce or to corner well. They’re … well, I’m not sure exactly what they’re built for, but road course racing ain’t it.
They look like elephants running an obstacle course sized for gazelles. They lumber around, turning hard, braking hard—looking for all the world like the car’s center of gravity is up near the roof. And I do mean they’re wobbly. (Check that shot from Getty Images if you don’t believe me.)
Adding to the entertainment, the announcers cover the same inevitable points at the two road course races each season, with great excitement:
- The drivers have to remember how to shift! On a road course, they’ll be doing so a couple-dozen times a lap, compared to a dozen times in total on some oval courses.
- The drivers have to turn right and left! This gets them talking about road courses versus ovals, and which drivers are good and bad at the road courses. This leads to the last point …
- We’ve got special guest stars in the field, some road course ringers! The “ringers” are the road course experts who make or have made a career in road course racing (whether sportscar or open-wheel) and who are typically brought in for a ride in a stock car for just the road course races to get a win for the team. If they don’t always win, there are inevitably three or four ringers in the top 10 at ever road course race.
All in all, a highly entertaining weekend of racing! But if NASCAR could do one thing for me, it would be to go racing at more than two road courses each year. I don’t think it’s likely, but I’ll keep hoping. Is anyone with me?